Join Wil Hafner, education program specialist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, for a free crappie fishing seminar Saturday, April 20, from 10 a.m. until noon at the Potlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook’s Lake at Casscoe.


Spring is in the air, and for many Arkansans that means baseball, turkey hunting, and crappie fishing. Many anglers only target crappie in spring, but good fishing for Arkansas’s most sought after panfish can be had all year, according to the Arkansas Wildlife Weekly Newsletter.


In addition to his role in the AGFC’s Education Division, Hafner is a lifelong hunter and angler. He will cover the basics to get started chasing crappie, what equipment is needed, public places to fish and will even end the program with a recipe or two,


During the spawn, Hafner keeps his crappie arsenal basic.


“From mid-March to late April, I like to target shallow brush; two feet or less,” Hafner said.


To target shallow cover, Hafner sticks with a high-quality, 11-foot graphite jig pole, outfitted with a basic spinning reel spooled with 8-lb. test monofilament line. His first choice of lures is going to be a ⅛-ounce jighead tipped with one of his favorite plastics.


“It’s hard to go wrong with a black and chartreuse or white and chartreuse tube this time of year,” Hafner said.


If fishing from the bank, Hafner will look for brush within a few feet of the shore and slowly drop his jig into the middle of the cover. He will hold the bait as still as possible for 5 to 10 seconds, and then move if a jumbo slab is not home. If fishing from a boat, he will use his electronics to find the brush under the surface others may miss.


If dissecting each piece of brush with a jig pole doesn’t pay off, Hafner has a light-action spinning rod rigged with a Roadrunner or other bladed pony head jig ready to fan cast in areas he thinks are holding crappie.


“I usually space casts about 10 feet from each other until I get a bite or feel the area is fished out,” Hafner said.


When neither the jig pole, nor pony head jig work, it’s time to break out the live bait on a slip cork.


“Sometimes right after a cold front, a minnow and bobber works wonders,” Hafner said.


During spring, Hafner focuses on fishing oxbow lakes off the White River as well as backwater areas of the Arkansas River.


“There are lots of options in Eastern Arkansas that really don’t get the attention of the state’s larger reservoirs,” Hafner said. “It just takes a little research to find some great hidden gems with untapped potential.”


As far as table fare, no fish is more of a regular staple on a southern angler’s plate than the crappie. It has a white mild fillet that can be prepared in a variety of ways including the old standby — fried crappie. When not frying his catch, Hafner likes to make blackened crappie tacos or a recipe from the 100 years of Conservation Cookbook, Lake Conway Slab Crappie cakes.


No matter how you slice it, dice it, fry it, or grill it, there are many incentives to learn or re-learn some of the basics of crappie fishing.


Call the center at 870-241-3373 to register for the free seminar to learn more about how to keep crappie on your menu year-round. This is a free program but seating is limited.


— Randy Zellers is Assistant Chief of Communications at Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.